One Big Bite

Yesterday was World Snake Day and we decided to take advantage of a unique Animeals opportunity. In case you aren’t familiar with how snakes eat, we can tell you it’s not like humans or other animals. Get comfortable and curl up with us for a feeding session with our reticulated pythons!

There are many ways that snakes kill and eat: venomous species kill their prey with a neurotoxin, ambush species sit very still as their prey go by then ambush their victim and several species use constriction. Pythons are snakes that use constriction by strike at their prey and coil around it, squeezing as hard as possible. This process ultimately suffocates the victim and once the snake is sure its meal is dead, it begins to swallow its prey whole.

Snakes that use constriction don’t have fangs, but do have tiny teeth – around 100 to be exact. Snakes can’t chew food like most animals, but the teeth instead help grip the prey as it moves down the snake’s mouth and through the esophagus to the stomach. Their jaws are also able to dislocate so the snake’s mouth can become wide enough to make it easier to eat the prey whole.

Snakes don’t eat often and can go weeks or even months without a meal, depending on the size and species. Some smaller snakes prey on birds, eggs and small mammals, but the larger the snake, the larger the prey. Reticulated pythons are the largest snake species in the world, so they need to eat a big meal to get enough sustenance, but can also go longer periods of time without eating because of how large a meal is.

At the Virginia Zoo, the reticulated python feeding schedule has no set date or time. Keepers keep track of feedings and monitor the snakes’ movements, which has helped establish a feeding system. When the reticulated pythons aren’t active, they are probably still full from their last meal and won’t be eating anytime soon. Once Keepers notice higher levels of activity, they begin prepping for meal time.

For this Animeals, Chef Yohn had the easiest job of all staff involved. He simply picked out a couple 10-pound frozen rabbits from the commissary freezer and began thawing them out, a process that takes around two days. Once the rabbits were thawed, it was time to separate the two reticulated pythons and offer them dinner! Viewer discretion is advised, but you can watch our video below to see how the largest of our two reticulated pythons enjoyed her meal.